India will celebrate 75 years of independence this year. Here is a series recognizing 75 great sporting achievements by Indian athletes. Sportstar is presenting a cult sporting achievement every day until August 15, 2022.
March 23, 1980: Prakash Padukone wins All-England Championships
A coup on the badminton court. A “king” is dethroned. That’s what happened when India’s ace Prakash Padukone faced Indonesia’s Liem Swie King, considered the best in the world, in the All-England final. Prakash literally crushed the reigning champion and title favorite.
What Wimbledon is to tennis, all of England is to badminton – the symbol of individual superiority in the game. Therefore, winning this title was Prakash’s goal in life.
King was the top seed. Prakrash, a joint third place finisher, had come to the All England with two leading world titles, the Danish Open and the Swedish Open. Although all the other top players were in action at those two tournaments, King was conspicuous by his absence and was probably training at home for an All England title bid to make it a third straight year.
Prakash Padukone was delighted to return after winning the All England Badminton Championship – THE HINDU ARCHIVES
That Prakash was at his best was shown by his victories at the Danish and Swedish Opens and the way he defended each of his rivals en route to the All England Championship final. Imagine a player like Hadiyanto from Indonesia who is not allowed to score even a single point in the first game. Then Svend Pri, the 1975 All-England champion, was beaten 15-4, 15-4. Next, the Master’s Champion in the semifinals fell to joint top seed Marten Frost Hansen of Denmark at a cost of 8 and 10 points.
But then King’s march to the finals was no less impressive as he finished off all his opponents without losing a game. In the semifinals, 1977 World Champion Flemming Delfs managed a meager five and eight points in both games. Despite Prakash convincingly beating all his opponents, King was always in a class of his own. Also, Prakash had never hit King in their previous encounters. As recently as January this year, King had overtaken Prakash in the semi-finals of the Champions Cup, held in Japan, by just eight points, two in the first game and six in the second. Prakash commented afterwards that King was so fast that he could score against anyone he wanted. So even in Prakash’s current form, King was still the favorite.
While King relies on his blistering pace, a sledgehammer smash backed by tremendous fitness and stamina, Prakash combines his power and speed with delicate punches. So when Prakash had to translate it to his formidable opponent, he had to slow him down to break his rhythm and get time to play his own shot, which was by no means an easy task. But it was accomplished in a way that left everyone amazed.
King was humiliated at 15-3 and 15-10. Thus was written the most glorious chapter in the history of Indian badminton, the first Indian to achieve this feat. By winning the All England title, Prakash managed a hat trick in 15 days. His victory at the Swedish Open in the final against the great Rudy Hartono, his childhood idol and after whom he had modeled his game, must have given him great satisfaction and confidence. At the Danish Open, Prakash faced a very different opponent, where he defeated Flemming Belts, the 1977 World Champion, in the semifinals. After losing to Prakash in the final, Morten Frost Hansen remarked: “The way Padukone played today, he would beat anyone.”
These words from Hansen turned out to be prophetic. Prakash’s participation in both of these tournaments helped him acclimatize and also gave him the necessary match practice and greatly boosted his confidence which eventually helped him win the All England title.
Prakash’s performance should inspire all youngsters in the game. But it must be remembered that behind Prakash’s success story is tremendous dedication, dedication and self-discipline. It is these qualities that made his dream of winning the All England a reality and propelled him to the pinnacle of glory.
Prakash Padukone goes on a victory parade after returning from winning the All England Badminton Championship – THE HINDU ARCHIVES
“I felt mesmerized,” said Indonesia’s Liem Swie King of losing the English-only badminton title to Prakash Padukone in London. of Indonesia compass daily quoted an unnamed friend of King as saying that the world No. 1 felt hypnotized during his match against Prakash. “I took good care of myself and was confident of victory when I entered the field,” King is said to have said.
“But as soon as the game started, I felt mesmerized and completely lost focus,” King told his confidant. King lost to Prakash in straight games, 3-15, 10-15. The 17-man Indonesian team, who came back with just one men’s doubles trophy compared to four last year, came home in a visibly dejected mood and, having arrived half an hour ahead of schedule, there was only a pinch Badminton officials and friends to welcome them back.
(The story was first published in the April 5, 1980 issue of Sportstar.)